Beauty: Owning It

Celebrating beauty is not a new thing. But the modern age gives us much more exposure to images of beauty as well as more opportunities for superficial interaction with people. Take the film The Social Network, where Mark Zuckerberg's inspiration for creating the company that is now facebook – today an integral part of our social media environment – was a program he wrote called facemash, where people could compare photos of two women and click on the most attractive one.

We are hardwired to seek out attractiveness. Watch any science program on sex or mating and you will find that men prefer women to have symmetric faces and features that indicate fertility (like bright eyes and good skin). There is even a hip to waist ratio which indicates optimal fertility. So we are hardwired to ensure the survival of our species. However, life is a bit more interesting than that.

Attractiveness is not the same as beauty. When I sit in a darkened theatre watching a movie (which happens more often than not on a Sunday evening for myself and the Hub), I often think about how most A-list actresses are so similar. Not only are they extremely thin and always pretty but they also have very similar body types – big boobs (but not too big), a small waist and curvy hips (but of course not too curvy).

But before I go to the movies I usually go to yoga. And things are different there. You've got a room full of really sweaty men and women (I do Bikram), wearing very little clothing, due to the excessive heat (104 degrees Fahrenheit). If you really want to see how much variety there is in the human form, go to a Bikram class. Not only are there a collection of sizes there, but also you can really start to understand that no one has exactly the same frame or proportions. Some people have really long legs and some people have shorter ones. Torsos are different sizes, waists are of different proportions and even necks are shorter or longer. But yet, everyone is using their body to the best of their ability and striving to increase their strength or their flexibility the best that they can. And despite the beginners flailing around and not really listening to the teacher, you know at some point they will get it and start to understand their body and struggle less.

I love seeing how everyone is different, but their bodies still move in sync, all together as one. Despite the sweat and the heat and sometimes the real loss of composure, the real variety of people is a beautiful sight.

Beauty is about individuality and being truly who you are. Not only owning your short wide hips, but also your tastes and abilities and the stylistic things that define you.

There's a television presenter here in the U.K. who I love. She's called Kirstie Allsop and she presents a show (along with someone called Phil Spencer) about real estate, called Location, Location, Location. It's been going for 10 years here and it's really popular.

I'm going to sound like a stalker here, but Kirstie epitomizes what real beauty is to me. Of all the women on TV, she's always stuck to her own style and exudes confidence. She's got a womanly body and wears fabulous dresses and skirts and suits and coats – she never wears trousers – because that's what looks good on her and it's her distinct style. She owns it.

True beauty to me is having the confidence to be yourself. And we all have the capacity to do this, but we have to stand up for ourselves and own it. Because people are more than a snapshot on a computer screen – and thank goodness for that.

This post is part of the Self-Discovery Word by Word series and this month's word was chosen by Val at Balancing Val. Click here to read her kick-off post and find out how to participate.

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